Raymond Chandler Invented Google

Quite a long time ago now–1998 in fact–I completed a PhD thesis on Raymond Chandler. At the time I was very pleased with it and I still am in some ways, but I never felt able to work it up into a book. Maybe I felt I’d said what I wanted to say; maybe I’d just had enough of it. I can’t remember anyway. I do remember making a couple of attempts to write about Chandler and failing miserably, which only made things worse. I’ve kept reading him though. I pick up one of the novels about once a year and I am always impressed. I think I’ve read The Long Good-Bye straight through ten or eleven times by now and dip into it regularly. Over the years I think what impresses me most about him though are the letters. Some of his finest writing is there. He’s playful, sarcastic, sad, tough, and just plain interesting to read, especially on the topic of writing itself. He knew it too. On August 12, 1953 Chandler wrote to his secretary and general help Juanita Messick: “Once in a while I run across one myself in the files, and I’m a little staggered if I happen to be the author of it to think I could have been so brilliant for no money.” 

So I consider myself fairly familiar with Chandler, but I was browsing through a battered old copy of the letters this afternoon and made a discovery. It’s not a new discovery by any means (it didn’t take long to find that these people already spotted it), but it is to me. In this letter to H.N. Swanson, March 14, 1953, Chandler parodies science fiction novels rather cleverly. But it also looks like he actually invents Google, or at least the word anyway:

“Did you ever read what they call Science Fiction? It’s a scream. It’s written like this: ‘I checked out with K19 on Adabaran III, and stepped out through the crummaliote hatch on my 22 Model Sirus Hardtop. I cocked the timeprojector in secondary and waded through the bright blue manda grass. My breath froze into pink pretzels. I flicked on the heat bars and the Bryllis ran swiftly on five legs, using the other two to send out crylon vibrations. The pressure was almost unbearable, but I caught the range on my wrist computer through the transparent cysicites. I pressed the trigger. The thin violet glow was ice-cold against the rust-colored mountains. The Bryllis shrank to half an inch long and I worked fast stepping on them with the poltex. But it wasn’t enough. The sudden brightness swung me round and the Fourth Moon had already risen. I had exactly four seconds to hot up the disintegrator and Google had told me it wasn’t enough.'” [emphasis mine].

As if he wasn’t brilliant enough.